Identity, ideology, and the hierarchy of intimacy: Locating medical assistants in abortion work
Awarded 2019
Emerging Scholars in Family Planning
Kelly Ward, MA
University of California, Irvine

Medical assistants (MAs) have been largely overlooked in research on abortion providers. The proposed research narrows that gap by documenting the integral role MAs play in abortion care. MAs are a rapidly growing occupational group in healthcare and often come to abortion work without a prior ideological commitment to reproductive rights. Using ethnographic methods, I provide an in-depth account of the work and workers at a stand-alone abortion clinic. Analysis for this project is centered on the ways in which occupational hierarchies influence abortion workers’ engagement in dirty work and intimate work. Degrees of participation in dirty work and intimate work may have implications for MAs’ professional identities and may shape MAs perceptions of themselves as members of a larger, politicized group of abortion workers.

Kelly is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. Her Master’s degrees in Public Administration and Education and a professional background in nonprofit work informs her research as she considers the ways organizational features contribute to providers’ experiences in abortion healthcare.